By KEVIN HARRIS
On May 25 at Champions Pointe Golf Club, No. 3 Floyd Central topped No. 1 Columbus North by one stroke to win the Legends of Providence Invitational that set up a much-anticipated rematch between the two teams in the Providence Regional.
In Thursday’s Providence Regional at Champions Pointe, the Highlanders were not as fortunate.
The Bull Dogs fired a team score of 297 to capture their third consecutive regional championship. Floyd Central finished second with a 301, a shot better than No. 11 Jasper.
“We just gave away too many shots on the back nine. We just didn’t play as well [as we are capable of],” Highlanders’ coach Mike Cason said. “[Columbus North is] just a really good team. You can’t afford to play that badly and win.”
Despite falling short of its first regional title since 2010, Floyd Central advanced to next week’s IHSAA State Finals for the fifth consecutive season and the 16th time in program history. The top three squads and the top five individuals on non-advancing teams qualified for the state finals, which will be Tuesday and Wednesday at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin.
“Really, it was a tale of two nines. We really played well on the front nine as we were 2-over-par. But on the back nine, we were 11-over-par, so obviously, we didn’t play as well as we did on the front,” Cason said. “But we still advanced and that’s what’s important.”
Senior Alex Beyer and junior Connor Welch led the Highlanders by each shooting a 74. Beyer carded a 38 on the front nine with two birdies and four bogeys, followed by paring each hole on the back side for an even-par 36. Welch shot an even-par 36 on the front nine with a pair of birdies and two bogeys. On the back nine, Welch had one birdie and three bogeys.
“Alex has been really consistent this season. He just had a consistent round,” Cason said. “Connor has really started to play well. He’s just starting to figure out how good he really is.”
Floyd Central senior Devin Jenkins shot a 76 after earning medalist honors at Monday’s Providence Sectional at Covered Bridge Golf Club for the second year in a row. Highlander senior Daniel Shepard fired a 77, while Floyd Central junior Jack Sparrow shot a 78.
Although he and his teammates were not celebrating a regional crown, Beyer was thrilled to go back to the state finals.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Beyer said. “That’s been the whole goal all year long is trying to get to state and give it our all on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
The host Pioneers saw their streak of five straight state berths come to an end, as they placed fourth with a 306.
Providence faced a stiff challenge in trying to advance to state this season because six additional teams from two sectionals [Jasper and Southport] fed into the regional. Entering the tournament, Pioneers’ coach Ken Allender thought a 306 would be good enough to get his team back to state.
“I thought we played well. If you told me this morning that we’ll give you a 306, I would’ve said let everybody shoot at that,” Allender said. “I really thought when we put a 306 up there that we would get out. I guess it’s a testament to how tough this regional is.
“When they brought the other two sectionals in, I knew there were usually some good teams that come out of those two sectionals. We already have a really strong regional. But that’s the way it’s going to be for now. It’s going to be a little harder to get out.”
Despite the Pioneers failing to advance as a team, one of them qualified for state as an individual.
Providence sophomore Mitchell Allender earned one of the five individual spots for non-qualifying teams with a 74.
Starting his round on the 10th hole, Coach Allender’s son struggled on the back nine with a 40 as he made a bogey on No. 11 and a triple bogey on No. 16. He bounced back on the front nine with a 2-under 34, hitting birdies on the first, third and fifth holes and a bogey on the seventh. The younger Allender will be playing in the state finals for the second year in a row.
“I was mainly trying to keep my focus and not letting bad shots and bad holes get to me,” he said. “I was just trying to stick to the fundamentals and keep my head in there.”
Ken Allender liked the way his son stayed poised during his round.
“He just kind of kept his composure,” the elder Allender said. “He hit the ball really well and he just kept the ball in play except for one hole. He made one bad swing on 16 and it caused him to triple bogey. Last year with his maturity level, he probably couldn’t have recovered from that. But this year, he just went back to his fundamentals. He got on the front side and birdied three of his first five holes and just kept on marching.”
Rounding out the scoring for the Pioneers were senior Cory Cahalan with a 76, freshman Kevin Crone with a 77 and senior Robert Waiz with a 79. Providence senior Max Hupp carded a 92.
Three Clark-Floyd area individuals came up short of advancing to state. Rock Creek Academy’s Brett Kastetler shot an 81, Silver Creek sophomore Sam Garr carded an 85 and New Albany senior Garrett Arnold had an 87.
Corydon Central finished sixth as a team with a 315. Mitchell Frederick led the Panthers with a 77, while teammates Ryan Crawford and Timothy Wiseman each shot a 78. Also for Corydon, Tommy Wiseman had an 82 and Steven Coleman fired an 86. North Harrison’s Chase Spencer had an 89.
Madison’s Jordan Griffith earned medalist honors with a 2-under 70.